My Favorite Home Improvements When Purchasing a New-to-Me Home  

This column is adapted from my July 18, 2019, column on this topic.

Energy efficiency is very important to Rita and me, so the first thing we did when we purchased our current home was to pay for an energy audit to identify opportunities for making the home more air-tight. One result of that test was to blow additional cellulose insulation into walls and ceilings and to caulk around windows. We considered installing an energy recovery ventilator (ERV) to bring fresh air into the home using a heat exchanger that warms outside air in the winter and cools outside air in the summer. Instead we installed a fan in our powder room that runs 24/7 at a very low volume, but higher when occupied.

I love bringing sunlight into a home, with sun tunnels. Rita and I had Mark Lundquist of Design Skylights install a Velux sun tunnel in our garage and another one in our laundry room. (He installed four more at Golden Real Estate.)

Speaking of sunlight, we replaced every light bulb in our home with LEDs which are “daylight” color.

Installing solar photovoltaic panels is a no-brainer now that the cost has dropped so much. Your roof doesn’t have to face due south. Southeast and southwest are good enough. Since everyone will be driving an electric car eventually, install as much solar PV as Xcel Energy allows to cover that future load.

Don’t you hate climbing a curb to enter your driveway? Developers install mountable curbs the entire length of residential streets, because they can’t know where each driveway will be. One of the first things we did at our home was to remove the mountable curb in front of our driveway.  It cost about $2,000 for our 3-car-wide driveway, but we love it every time we enter from the street!

When your gas forced air furnace needs replacing, consider replacing it with a heat-pump or hybrid furnace. And when your gas water heater needs replacing, I recommend buying a heat-pump water heater. We bought a 50-gallon Rheem unit for $1,200, but it came with a $400 rebate. Once you’ve replaced both, you will have eliminated the most common sources of carbon monoxide poisoning in your home. 

Other improvements I’d recommend: Replacing any bathroom carpeting with ceramic or porcelain tile; replacing regular double-pane windows with Low-E windows on south-facing windows; replacing fluorescent fixtures (as we did in our garage) with flush-mount LED panels sold at Lowes for about $100.  Love ’em!

Electric Cars Are Your Best Cold Weather Choice  

It’s that time of year when I like to remind readers about the advantages of electric vehicles (EVs) in cold weather. Here’s what you need to know.

1)  No warming up is needed. Put the car in Drive and go! Also, the cabin will be warm within 1/2 mile because it doesn’t require an engine to warm up first. In my Tesla I can turn on the heat with my phone app a few minutes earlier so the cabin, steering wheel and seat are all warm when I get in the car. Also, I can leave the heater on when I park the car so it’s warm when I return, if I am just going into a store for a short time. (I do the same thing on hot summer days, so it stays cool!)

2)  Your car will never break down, stranding you in a freezing car on the side of the road. The only time you see an EV on the side of the road is if there’s a flat tire or an accident. Stuck in a snow drift? The EV’s heater will keep you warm as long as you need, consuming only 3 to 5 miles of range per hour — and producing no carbon monoxide!

3)  Because of its low center of gravity, an EV handles snow-covered (and dry) roads great — better than any car I’ve owned.

4)  Used EVs are your best buy. The older (pre-2018) Tesla Models S & X are a great buy because most come with transferrable lifetime free supercharging coast-to-coast when purchased privately, not as Certified Pre-Owned from Tesla. Ask before buying.

5)  There are federal and state tax credits and various rebates to be had. See the following website for a full list: www.electricforall.org/rebates-incentives

Here’s More About Our Planned ‘Net Zero Store’  

By the time you read this article, Golden Real Estate’s move from 17695 S. Golden Road to 1214 Washington Avenue will be well underway.

Last week I announced that we will be transforming our old office space (which Rita and I own personally) into the home of a new venture Ty Scrable and I are calling The Net Zero Store.  It will be a one-stop shop for “all things sustainable,” selling and/or brokering products and services designed to reduce your home’s carbon footprint.

Among the products we will be selling or promoting are the following:

Solar Photovoltaic and Solar Thermal Systems

Sun Tunnels

Heat Pump HVAC Systems

Heat Pump Water Heaters

High-Efficiency Windows

Various Kinds of Home Insulation

HRVs and CERVs for Home Ventilation and Air Quality

Induction Cooktops

Condensing Clothes Dryers

Sustainable Countertop Choices

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations

 Among the services we will offer directly or through vendors are the following:

In-Home Consultations With a Sustainability Coach

Energy Audits

Blower Door Testing

Testing and Mitigation for Mold, Radon, Asbestos

Advice Regarding Electric Vehicles

ADUs and Tiny Homes

Webinars and In-Person Events on All Aspects of Sustainability

Reading/Video Lists for Further Study

Styrofoam Recycling

Unlike other stores, everyone you encounter at The Net Zero Store will be knowledgeable in all these areas. Ty and I are in the process of creating partnerships with vendors of these products and services. If you have a product or service you think should be featured in our store, please call Ty at 720-281-6783.

We are also recruiting volunteers to serve as sustainability coaches.

Happy Thanksgiving! Here Are Some Things That We’re Grateful for This Year  

2021 has been a difficult year for everyone, but it has also been a year of growth for Golden Real Estate and for me personally. Fortunately, Rita and I have escaped infection by Covid-19. We are all fully vaccinated, and Rita and I plus a couple broker associates have received our booster shots.

We’ll be closing out 2021 with over $50 million in closed sales volume, compared to less than $32 million in 2020.

So we have a lot to be thankful for at Golden Real Estate, most especially the patronage of buyers and sellers who chose us to serve their real estate needs.    I know for a fact that many of this year’s clients chose us not only because of the real estate reputation we have built through this weekly column but also because of the political stands I have taken regarding our former president and his followers. We gained far more clients than we lost because of my political writing.

And we are not alone politically. While fellow agents and brokerages have not spoken out as we have for fear of losing clients, the National Association of Realtors (NAR) has taken some courageous stands demonstrating alignment with our own values. For example, last fall the incoming president of NAR apologized for the past policies of the association which reinforced systemic racism, such as redlining and steering buyers to minority areas instead of showing them all listings they were financially qualified to buy. I’m grateful for the attention paid by NAR to social justice issues, but also for its effort, albeit unsuccessful so far, to eliminate the practice of off-MLS (“pocket”) listings.

I’m also grateful for the progress being made by REcolorado, Denver’s MLS. I have seen this progress from the inside as a member of the Rules & Regulations Committee as well as from being a user of REcolorado’s services. I appreciate REcolorado for adopting some of my suggestions, such as creating a field for closing notes.

At the top of my gratitude list is the fact that we were able to rent a storefront in downtown Golden. In early December, Golden Real Estate will be moving to 1214 Washington Avenue, the former location of Laurel Property Services. We look forward to benefiting from the pedestrian traffic of that prime location. We have ordered a WindoVision unit from TouchPoint Systems to capitalize on that traffic. Below is an artist’s rendering of it installed in our storefront. It allows passersby to search the MLS live using a through-the-window touch screen.

What’s really exciting about our move to downtown Golden is what it allows us to do with our current building on South Golden Road. As you know by now, we are a showplace of “net zero energy,” so I am partnering with broker associate Ty Scrable, who is super-committed and knowledgeable about sustainability, to create a new business we are calling The Net Zero Store. Our goal is to bring under one roof and into one showroom the various products and services that allow homeowners and businesses to “go net zero.”

Ty and I will be presenting our plans for this new venture at the Nov. 30th, 7pm, meeting of the Colorado Renewable Energy Society at the Jefferson Unitarian Church, 14350 W. 32nd AveHere’s a link if you’d like to attend.

Don’t Wait Until Spring to Sell Your Home; There Are Many Advantages to Putting It on the MLS in Winter  

Each year at this time, I like to remind readers that the real estate business is not as seasonal as it once was. It used to be that spring and summer were considered the time to put a home on the market, based primarily on the school calendar. But that is old-school thinking.

Nowadays, with buyers and their agents setting up automated MLS searches based on the buyers’ needs and wants, homes are selling year round. What makes winter a particularly good time to list a home is that most sellers continue to think the old way and keep their homes off the market until spring.

As a result, those sellers who do put their home on the market enjoy two advantages. The first is less competition from other listings, and the second is the large number of buyers who will get the automated alert when a new listing matches their search criteria. (Over 850 buyers got alerts for this week’s featured listing.)

As I write this on Tuesday morning, Nov. 23rd, there is only one active listing in the entire City of Golden. How would you like your home to be   the only home for sale in a city of 20,000 people and 7,500 homes?

I myself have nearly 100 buyers with MLS alerts matching their search criteria. When a new listing is entered on the MLS which matches a buyer’s search criteria, that buyer gets an email alert with all the photos and details about that particular listing.

Perhaps you recall the DTC condo I featured last week. In the first day that it became active on the MLS, over 500 buyers received email alerts about it, four of whom tagged it a “favorite” and six tagged it a “possibility.” When a client tags a listing, their agent gets an email letting him or her know, likely triggering an in-person showing. That listing is already under contract for 10% over listing.

My $725,000 Littleton listing featured two weeks ago triggered email alerts to over 650 buyers, 18 of whom tagged it a favorite and 8 of whom tagged it as a possibility. It went under contract in five days for 20% over listing price.

Don’t wait for spring to list your home if you’d just as well sell it now. This is a great time to list!

NAR’s chief economist predicts a hotter-than-normal real estate market this winter. Click here. And realtor.com published an article on this same topic on November 15th:  “Should You Wait Until Spring to Sell Your Home? No Way! Why Winter Listings Rule Today.” 

Affordable Townhome Near Olde Town Arvada

This 3-bedroom, 2-bath single-family attached home at 5258 Estes Circle is conveniently located in a quiet subdivision within walking or biking distance of Olde Town Arvada, a couple blocks east of Garrison Street north of 52nd Avenue. It was just listed for $425,000. All bedrooms are upstairs, and there is a fenced yard in the back. There is no basement. Built in 1987, it is being sold by its original owner, who has taken good care of it. Sunflower Townhomes is the subdivision’s name. It consists of 51 attached homes like this one. It’s what I call a “cul-de-sac neighborhood,” because the only traffic you’ll see is from fellow homeowners. With this home at the far end, that means almost no traffic passing by. To fully appreciate this home, visit www.ArvadaPatioHome.info (or click on the thumbnail below) to take a narrated video tour, then come to our open house on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, from 11 am to 1 p.m.

https://youtu.be/W_f01haLIGs

Interviewing a Listing Agent? Ask Him or Her to Bring Their MLS Production Print-out  

The MLS printout for Golden Real Estate below shows the information that can be gleaned about individual agents and their brokerages. I’m showing our company report, but I could have shown my personal report. This print-out shows our production since Jan. 1st of this year.

The Production Section at top summarizes the report, showing that we had 46 listings since Jan. 1st, three of which we sold ourselves.  We had 21 buyer-side closings. The right-hand column shows the average of closed price (CP) to listing price (LP) — 102.47% for all MLS sold listings but much better for Golden Real Estate’s sold listings — 104.73%.

In the Production Detail section, the right-hand column shows how many days each sold listing was on the MLS before going under contract. Notice there are no zero days in MLS (“DIM”) because every listing was exposed to the full market so it would attract the most buyers, and yet there are few listings that took over a week to sell.

The “City” column lets you know where the agent (or company) does most of its business. The “List Price” and “Close Price” columns are also instructive. I’ve circled the two most recent sales as examples of how much above the listing price we sold those listings, thanks to our “auction style” of handling multiple offers, as opposed to the “highest and best” approach of most listing agents. It takes more work, but yields better results (a higher price) for our sellers.

This is not to suggest that an agent’s production is the sole criterion you should consider in choosing your listing agent.  However, we learn from experience, which comes from actual transactions, not from years in the business. An agent with only five years’ of licensure but who does a dozen-plus transactions a year can be more “experienced” than an agent who has done a couple transactions a year over a 20-year career.

And let’s not forget about testimonials. Ask for them, and look for online reviews, too. We like www.RatedAgent.com, because it only displays reviews solicited from actual clients following a closing, so the reviews can’t be phonied up or altered in any way.

It Takes Many ‘Players’ on a Mortgage Lending Team to Get You to the Closing Table  

By JIM SMITH, Realtor®

The government’s supervision of lenders has changed the way that home loans are made. Once you select your lender, you will be interacting with multiple people. Understanding who the “players” are is important.

I asked Jaxzann Riggs, owner of The Mortgage Network to describe those players..

The Loan Originator/Loan Officer

Sometimes called a “loan originator” or “loan officer” (LO) this is your team manager. Your LO will typically be your first contact with the lender. The LO decides if your income, assets, and credit will allow you to obtain the financing you need. The LO will be an educator and your advocate. He/she will manage the overall progress of the application, making sure that deadlines agreed upon by you and the seller are honored.

The Processor

The processor is the player tending to your loan application as it winds its way from application to closing. Your processor will request documentation from you that supports the information that you and the LO have put into the application for the loan. Their job is to organize your documents so that they paint a clear picture of your ability to repay the loan. The loan processor is the go-between between the borrower and underwriter.

The Appraiser 

The appraiser will create a report that assesses the home’s market value to ensure that the amount of money requested for the loan will be acceptable to FNMA or FHLMC. The appraiser confirms the home’s dimensions, examines amenities, and evaluates the overall condition. He/she examines the records of comparable properties, ideally ones in the same neighborhood that have sold recently. Based on this information, the appraiser arrives at an opinion of how much your property would sell for if you put it on the market. This opinion assists the underwriter, along with your income, assets, and credit history in deciding how much it will lend you and on what terms.

The Underwriter

Think of the underwriter as the final word. FNMA and FHLMC are quasi-governmental agencies that set underwriting standards which lenders must follow. After reviewing your credit history, assets, the size of the loan, and the appraisal of the home, it is the underwriter who will decide whether your application meets government standards and either approve or decline the application. If they decide that your credit profile or application does not meet FNMA/FHLMC standards, they may deny your mortgage or require a larger down payment. Underwriters have discretion in the approval decision and, while they are the “gatekeeper” for the lender, they typically will look for ways to approve the loan.

The Closer

While not obvious, there are two “closers” working on your loan team. The title company’s closer must coordinate with the lender’s closer to reconcile the numbers associated with the loan and real estate transaction. The title closer will be presenting the lender’s final documents for your signature on the day of closing. The closing package includes the final loan application, loan estimate and closing disclosure, title insurance documents, deed of trust, bill of sale, affidavit of title, tax documents, etc. While they start their work at the beginning of the transaction, their work is not finished until all the documents that you sign at closing have been recorded with the county.

The Most Valuable Player (MVP)

The most important player is YOU. Your LO and Loan Processor will not ask you for documentation unless they know that it will be required by the underwriter. The more responsive you are to their requests, the faster the loan will be approved and the lower your stress level will be during the process.

Do you have other questions about the mortgage process? I recommend calling Jaxzann at 303-990-2992.

Just Listed: Affordable 1-BR Condo Near DTC & Light Rail  

This extra-clean 1-bedroom condo is just 4 blocks from the Arapahoe Center/Fiddlers Green light rail station. Although convenient to I-25, you won’t hear it from this unit which faces east. Many units are rented, but others are owner occupied. If you work in the Denver Tech Center, you’ll love being within walking or at most biking distance of your office. The low HOA dues includes water, trash removal, swimming pool, fitness center, clubhouse, snow removal, and all exterior maintenance.  The 88-sq.-ft. private balcony, visible in the above picture, is in addition to the 658 square feet of indoor space. We won’t be holding it open, so be sure to view the video walk-through online at www.DTCcondo.info or by clicking on the thumbnail below, then call your agent or Jim Smith at 303-525-1851 to arrange a private showing.

https://youtu.be/mVcf8HPCtPk
Clubhouse
Fitness center
Pool, with clubhouse beyond
Clubhouse interior
Greenbelt behind condo complex
Bridge to Light Rail and Fiddlers Green, 3 blocks away

I’m Reconsidering the Advice I’ve Given About What to Fix or Improve Before Listing Your Home  

Recent experience with my listings has caused me to rethink recommendations I’ve made in the past about fixing up a home before putting it on the market.

Despite a moderating seller’s market, two recent listings went under contract for way above their listing prices, and I think it was because of the effort and money that was expended on dressing them up for sale.

In previous columns I have said you don’t need to do much to sell a home. Only fix “eyesores,” I wrote.  If the carpet is old but not damaged or rippled, just have it professionally cleaned, don’t replace it.

My most recent seller, however, spent significant time and money dressing up their home before putting it on the market, and I think it paid off. The home was listed at what the comparable sales suggested it should sell for, but it attracted 12 offers and ended up going under contract in five days for 20 percent over the listing price. 

The new carpeting was well chosen and beautifully installed. The seller followed our stager’s advice to the letter. The deck was re-stained. The concrete flatwork which had settled was mud-jacked. Windows were washed and screens labeled and put away. I asked the seller to describe all they had done over several months, and it’s super-instructive. Here’s a link to what they wrote.

Another effort — by me — really paid off, too.  The narrated video tour with drone video which we put on YouTube and linked to the MLS and our website was so effective in showing off the home that a buyer from the East Coast submitted the winning offer without seeing it in person. That’s because our videos simulate an actual showing, starting out front (just like a real showing) and going through the home and into the backyard, narrating all the time.

As I wrote in a previous column, we are amazed that more agents don’t shoot live action narrated videos. They’re easy to do once you get the knack of it, and they cost nothing to create and edit if the listing agent does it himself.  And who better than the listing agent to “show” a listing?

Come on, dear colleagues, get with the program. It can pay off for you as it pays of for Golden Real Estate agents week after week!